January 15th, 2007

Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?

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Findory, a personalized news service created by Greg Linden, who worked on Amazon’s groundbreaking personalization engine, will be put on autopilot as Greg steps away from the effort. Om Malik comments:

Despite being drop dead simple, Findory never realized its true potential as an information discovery engine. It has all the makings of being a personal memetracker, something a lot of folks have been clamoring for. In contrast the general purpose memetrackers that follow conversations, like Techmeme and Tailrank keep growing.

I wonder whether the great success of TechMeme (and Memeorandum, Gabe Rivera’s other site on politics) and Digg , vs. the failure of Findory to catch on, is evidence that news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news, to validate our experiences by sharing them with others. How can there be “conversation” if we’re all talking about something different?

Perhaps the good old fashioned niche is as personalized as we need to get. TechMeme and Digg are highly niche sites, and thus are tailored to the specific interests of their users without getting so personalized as to break the bonds of community.

There’s also the advantage of constantly pushing the boundaries of your personal interests. Users depend on TechMeme and Digg to show them interesting content that they never would have thought would be interesting to them — it’s the power of serendipity and discovery that comes when you ride along with a larger community of interest.

The same theory can be applied to other technologies. The iPod — and soon the iPhone — is a shared experience. The iPod spread so fast because we felt an instant bond with other iPod owners.

Comments (23 Responses so far)

  1. I like people who disagree with me. They force me to better refine my arguments and reconsider my assumptions. Scot Karp’s last two posts directly disagree with me. And I think it’s fascinating. First he thinks that news is a shared, social experience

  2. the common vocabulary for our shared civic converstaion.” It’s an old meme, but a sound one. It’s really true that society will never be able to find solutions until we can name and describe the problems … Now here’s a thoughtful post that makes that point even more … well, pointedly. In talking about news as “a fundamentally shared, social experience,” Steve Karp adds another dimension to that argument.[IMG ] He’s not arguing specifically in favor of newspapers; his contrasting

  3. Scott Karp’s post

  4. Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience? » Publishing 2.0

  5. the newspaper’s role in providing “the common vocabulary for our shared civic converstaion.” It’s an old meme, but a sound one. It’s really true that society will never be able to find solutions until we can name and describe the problems … Now here’s a thoughtful post that makes that point even more … well, pointedly. In talking about news as “a fundamentally shared, social experience,” Steve Karp adds another dimension to that argument.[IMG ] He’s not arguing specifically in favor of newspapers; his contrasting

  6. Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?

  7. [IMG] Originally posted by Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0, ReBlogged by yatta on Jan 16, 2007 at 4:56 PM [IMG] [IMG +]Processpatching

  8. area on the front page, and commenting, friending, and generally taking an active social networking-style role on the site that is diametrically opposed to Digg’s human-hands-off-way-off style. Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 asks if news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. I would argue that it is… to a certain extent. Scott is right in saying that people enjoy sites like Digg and Techmeme because they offer the prospect of interesting stories that you didn’t even know you would be interested in (

  9. (Gratis) Boek over UGC of CCCA Second to Talk About Second LifeBMW New World verkent Second LifeCommunity-generated Documentation SurveyWhat Is The Check On Wikipedia’s Power?Against widgetsSome Bling for Your BlogIs News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?

  10. wonders

  11. View this article on its blog

  12. I wonder — has anyone seen an engine of this ilk that is useful for local?

    We’re launching one soon, but I’d love to kick the tires on others if they’re about:
    http://www.pegasusnews.com/about/dailyyou/

    I reached out to Greg about licensing Findory technology before we built our own, but there was no interest.

  13. Spot on – recommendation engines without an explicit social aspect have felt like an echo chamber to me when I’ve tried to use them. One of my colleagues has bitterly complained about Google News’ efforts in this direction as well – as he puts it, “I go to Google News to see what the world is talking about, and that includes the significance of placement on the front page of the NYTimes.” Being fed stories based on previous interest is the wrong behavior here. We could just use the Goog or Findory to find the specific news stories that interest us, use the right terminology (e.g. “estate tax” vs. “death tax”), or deal with the small range of topics we’re already familiar with, but this would be a self-imposed narrowing of horizons. I’m enjoying the opposite effect of web news – connecting with a broader population of interest.

  14. Contrary to myth, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of real interest in personalization. If you look closely, the hype is more gurus saying people should want it, than that people do want it.

    TechMeme does something I call “serve the A-list”, in that it gives high attention earners even more attention, and focuses on mining what’s getting a lot of attention. It’s really a very top-down system at heart.

    I wouldn’t say “news *is* …”. But rather, “The money and the attention is in the Big Heads”.

    Findory was an interesting idea and I’m sorry to see it go.

  15. [...] Interesting observation from Scott Karp: News is fundamentally a social and shared experience. Think of the water cooler, or what a publisher once said to me — I want to walk into a coffee shop and hear people talking about what they just read in our paper. Technology doesn’t change that, just makes it easier, more distributed and more obvious. [...]

  16. [...] Publishing 2.0: Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience? Scott Karp: “Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news…” (tags: journalism readership community personalisation aggregators findory digg) [...]

  17. [...] Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 asks if news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. I would argue that it is… to a certain extent. Scott is right in saying that people enjoy sites like Digg and Techmeme because they offer the prospect of interesting stories that you didn’t even know you would be interested in (Reddit is my favorite site that falls into this category, by the way). This activity is akin to the traditional experience of browsing through part or the full of the newspaper over breakfast, isn’t it? In both cases the consumer is browsing a trusted news source. Of course, one is selected by professional journalists while the other is selected by the audience, or some combination of editors and users. [...]

  18. [...] Scott Karp askes, “Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?” His theory: [...]

  19. [...] Scott Karp faults Findory for failing to capture the serendipity of learning what you didn’t realize you needed to know…and, particularly, who else doesn’t know it yet. “Perhaps the good old fashioned niche is as personalized as we need to get. TechMeme and Digg are highly niche sites, and thus are tailored to the specific interests of their users without getting so personalized as to break the bonds of community.” [...]

  20. [...] Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience? Scott Karp suspects so and, if he’s right, that means online publishers will have to take that (not personalization) into account. [...]

  21. [...] There are other experiments going on, some of which have caught on while others are struggling.  For instance, Findory is a personalised general news service which has not really caught on, unlike Digg (which postions itself as user-powered content), Techmeme and Memeorandum which focus on narrowly defined niches (technology, politics etc). For more on this, read Scott Karp’s article on Is news a fundamentally shared social experience.  [...]

  22. Scott Karp, you have made a few very good comments…..
    Check this site out…

    http://www.yournewsday.com.

    Seems like they have taken the lead in bringing user generated unbiased news.
    News to the next level..Your News.

  23. If right, this means that there is an enduring consumer demand for something shared, and that personalisation will never fully take off in general-purpose news services. It also means that the ‘static’ nature of much of today’s web may be a happy accident and an enduring feature: for all the talk about web 2.0 Ajax magic, the web is a shared space only for as long as what I see is what you see. More here.

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